U.S. Coast Guard Launches Cetacean Desk To Protect Endangered Whales In Salish Sea

The U.S. Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound launched a ground-breaking desk pilot program to protect the endangered whale population in the Salish Sea on February 21, 2024. The four-year endeavour, hosted by the Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service, aims to reduce the adverse effects of maritime vessel traffic on large cetaceans, such as whales, by implementing real-time monitoring and alert systems.

The pilot program, which is the culmination of efforts authorised by the Don Young Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022, will serve as an integral component of the Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service, easing the transmission of critical whale sighting data to sailors transiting the region.

The program proposes to provide sailors with near-real-time information on whale locations via the Whale Report Alert System (WRAS), thereby improving situational awareness and lowering the incidence of ship impacts and disturbances in the Puget Sound area.

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Coast Guard Captain Mark McDonnell expressed gratitude for the opportunity to lead this pivotal initiative, highlighting the collaborative efforts of federal, tribal, international, and state agencies and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to ensure enhanced cetacean safety measures.

Rachel Aronson, the Quiet Sound program director at Washington Maritime Blue, described the establishment of the cetacean desk as an essential step in balancing maritime operations with protecting marine ecosystems. Aronson emphasised the program’s focus on community engagement, in which sailors’ reports of whale encounters are used to promote safe navigation practices. Marine mammal researcher Grace Ferrara of the NOAA Fisheries office in Seattle applauded the Coast Guard’s proactive approach to protecting marine animals and travellers in the Puget Sound area.

The cetacean desk will be subjected to ongoing evaluation to maximise its effectiveness in protecting at-risk whale populations. The Coast Guard intends to improve and broaden the program’s capabilities in the coming years by encouraging cooperation with various stakeholders, including federal, tribal, international, and state partners and non-governmental organisations.

The safety of cetaceans in the Salish Sea, home to a wide variety of marine species, is facing never-before-seen challenges due to increased maritime activity in recent years. The U.S. Coast Guard’s cetacean desk is a proactive measure to reduce the risks associated with vessel strikes and underwater noise pollution.

The initiative started when whale numbers were increasing in the area, emphasising how urgent it is to protect their habitat. By utilising technological innovations, the cetacean desk combines information from many sources, such as mariner reports and specialised apps, to give commercial ships and local ferries comprehensive whale sighting warnings.

Lt. Commander Margaret Woodbridge highlighted how it provides ship operators with situational awareness in real-time, allowing them to take preventative action to avoid possible collisions. An essential component of this effort is integrating the Whale Report Alert System (WRAS), which allows for smooth communication between authorities and mariners.

A coordinated effort including federal agencies, local governments, tribal groups, and scientific communities resulted in establishing the cetacean desk. The initiative is a prime example of cross-border collaboration in tackling international conservation issues, taking inspiration from Canada’s Marine Mammal Desk.

The program’s primary creator, Sen. Maria Cantwell, stressed the legislation’s critical role in protecting the Salish Sea’s ecological integrity. Cantwell emphasised the program’s importance in promoting a symbiotic relationship between maritime operations and marine biodiversity and its potential to produce valuable data for upcoming conservation efforts.

Reference: USCG, AP

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Marine Insight News Network is a premier source for up-to-date, comprehensive, and insightful coverage of the maritime industry. Dedicated to offering the latest news, trends, and analyses in shipping, marine technology, regulations, and global maritime affairs, Marine Insight News Network prides itself on delivering accurate, engaging, and relevant information.

About Author

Marine Insight News Network is a premier source for up-to-date, comprehensive, and insightful coverage of the maritime industry. Dedicated to offering the latest news, trends, and analyses in shipping, marine technology, regulations, and global maritime affairs, Marine Insight News Network prides itself on delivering accurate, engaging, and relevant information.

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